Shedding New Light on Jewish Traditions

Doug Smithman Story


Doug Smithman


Or Hadash is privileged to be the current occupant of Fairwold. The building was built in 1888 by John R. and Sarah Fell, nee Drexel. (Yes, THAT Drexel. Sarah was the youngest daughter of a dominant force in the Drexel banking empire.) After the untimely passing of her husband, Sarah married Alexander Van Renssalaer. (Yes, THAT Renssalaer; Alexander’s grandfather founded Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.) They eventually sold the building and surrounding lands to Richard M. Cadwalader, who was married to Emily Roebling, the granddaughter of John A. Roebling. (Yes, THAT Roebling; John founded Roebling Steel and designed the Brooklyn Bridge.) The property, which seems to have consisted of two buildings, extensive gardens, and a 55-acre farm complex, was the Cadwalader’s summer and weekend home and they named it Fairwold. They added the west wing, which consisted of a sizable ballroom complete with a built-in organ.


George Gay, the realtor for the Cadwaladers, bought Fairwold and lived there for many years. Eventually he split the building and gifted the side now housing Or Hadash to the Oreland Baptist Church. The gift stipulated that the building be forever used for worship.


Congregation Or Hadash purchased the building in 1995. The emphasis on education and tradition exude from every crevice in the building. The inherent strength of the stonework combined with the beauty of the woodwork has become synonymous with our inherent strength, based on our Jewish tradition, and the beauty of our congregation.